Margaret Douglas: Life Story

Chapter 10 : Marriage Negotiations

It is impossible to know when Margaret first heard a marriage mooted between her and Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox, but Henry’s Council and her father were negotiating for it from July of 1543.

Lennox had spent most of his youth in France, where he was an important figure in the Scots Guard around François I. He had left Scotland in the wake of his father’s murder by one of the Hamiltons. This shared enmity for the Hamiltons and their leader, the Earl of Arran, was a link with Angus, but in 1543, with Angus reconciled to Arran as Governor of the Realm, it looked as though the two would be on opposing sides.

Lennox returned to Scotland with the view of ousting Arran from the Governorship – a role he felt belonged to him, as, in his view, his claim to be the young Queen Mary’s heir was superior to Arran’s.

Lennox represented the French alliance, and hoped to marry Marie of Guise, the Dowager Queen. She held him off, but gave him enough encouragement for him to help her in her plan to move to Stirling to enable her daughter to be crowned.

At some point, Arran turned away from Henry, and dismissed the idea of the marriage between Mary and Edward, reconciling more fully with the Queen Dowager and Cardinal Beaton, the other leader of the pro-French party.

The bitterness between Arran and Lennox was so strong that this influenced the latter to turn towards the English party. Arran had stated quite clearly that he would not be of the same party as Lennox, unless the latter recognised his right as ‘second person of the realm’. Lennox, claiming that place for himself, refused to do so and presumably was determined to be on any side against Arran. Marie of Guise began to suspect that Lennox would betray the Governor and herself and warned Arran (who needed no prompting) and the Cardinal against trusting him.

By the end of October 1543, Lennox was at Dumbarton Castle, whence a French loan of 10,000 crowns together with munitions, a Legate from the Pope, and the French Ambassador had been sent. Queen Marie told the Venetian envoy that she would have preferred to gold to be at ‘the bottom of the sea’ rather than that it should fall into Lennox’ hands.

Marie was right in her surmise that Lennox would betray her as he was now in secret negotiation with the English, and was demanding, as part of his price for betraying Dumbarton to Henry’s men, that not only should he marry Margaret, but that they should succeed her father, Angus, in the Earldom of Angus, even though Angus had sons by his third marriage. Angus refused to agree to this. The Dowager, Cardinal and Governor all commanded Lennox to send the money, munitions, Legate and Ambassador to Edinburgh. Sir Ralph Sadler (Henry’s Ambassador) believed Lennox might send the latter two, but would hang on to the useful items.

The Venetian envoy could not believe that Lennox, being a ‘Lord and a Gentleman’, would so dishonour himself, and risk the loss of the King of France’s favour as well as his lands in France and expectation of more there: however it seems that Lennox’s hatred and jealousy of Arran and his resentment at his rejection by Marie were stronger than his loyalty to the King of France. Whilst Henry considered his proposals Lennox temporised with Marie, promising, but failing, to deliver the money and munitions to her.

By March of 1544, it appeared that Henry had agreed in principle to the marriage, although he made the caveat that the young couple must agree to it, once they had seen each other as he had promised his niece ‘never to cause her to marry any but whom she shall find in her own heart to love’. This is less likely to be a reflection of Henry’s romantic streak, than a loophole for breaking the match off if he changed his mind.

Lady Margaret Douglas

Lady Margaret Douglas

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